There are few films we can think of as singularly weird as "Rubber." The story, following a vindictive, lovelorn tire that goes on a killing rampage in a small Southwestern town, is strange and oddly affecting – a tale of loneliness, where the protagonist just happens to be a rubber wheel. And this is before you start talking about the audience who is "watching" the movie unfold (and getting picked off one by one). Hearing the premise for "Rubber," your first thought is probably, "Who the hell came up with this?" Well, that'd be French filmmaker and musician Quentin Dupieux. He talked to us about the origins of the film, his approach to the score (which he co-composed with Justice's Gaspard Auge), and what's next.
The Playlist: Where did the concept for "Rubber" come from?
Quentin Dupieux: It's hard to tell. Ideas come from nowhere, we don't know. I might be thinking of some ideas and I might pick up one randomly, if I feel it. But before the idea, the decision to make "Rubber" was related to another project, a bigger one. I was writing another movie and we realized it was hard to finance. So I decided to write something small and easy to shoot.
What was the larger project that this was born from?
The other project was named "Reality." It is really hard to talk about because the script is so complicated, but let's say it's a cool and funny "Inception" because "Inception" is not cool and boring.
Do you still plan on doing that project?
Yeah. I'm doing another one first, which is called "Wrong." I'm living in LA for a few months while I shoot it. It's a little bit bigger than "Rubber." And then I’ll go back to France to shoot the bigger one, "Reality."
And what is "Wrong" about?
The pitch is terrible if I tell you like this, but it's about a missing dog. And the owner of the dog… I don't want to talk about it. The pitch sounds terrible. But the movie's really funny.
So you come from music [he makes killer dance music under the alias Mr. Oizo] and now you're doing movies…
Well, I was doing short films before making music. I've been doing short films since I was fifteen. And then I decided to make some music.
How do the different mediums inform each other?
It's hard to describe but obviously, when you're making a movie with a lot of people and you have to explain what's in your mind, which is very interesting because you have an idea and you have to transform it into something real, so there's a lot of communication involved. And when you make music, you're just by yourself, and you have an idea and have to find a way to make it real, by yourself. And probably my music skills help me, for the editing, for the rhythm of the movie. I realize I am making a good track when I have some visuals in my mind. Both activities work like that.
You talk about the movie's rhythm – when do you have a grasp of that, is it while you're shooting? While you're doing the music?
The truth is, for music and also for writing and shooting, I'm always trying to be brainless. Because when you use your brain too much, you lose a lot of time. And to me, creativity is something deep and should not come from the brain. It has to be like impulsions, not too brainy.
What was it like working with Gaspard from Justice?
That was super exciting and Gaspard is just the nicest guy on earth. So he was just sending me demos. He was doing the demos on Garage Band and I was producing the tracks and composing and adding other sounds. It was probably the best collaboration I've ever had in music. Usually when you try to work with some friends, it's cool and interesting but it's a bit stressful. Because every artist has an ego and usually it's very hard. Gaspard is so nice and so peaceful and so generous, so it was really easy to work with him. And he's like that and very precise on his choices and sometimes he's obsessed with a little sound. A lot of times I've tried to make music with good friends and it never worked. We are all used to [being] alone in front of a computer, so suddenly when you're two in a room, you're watching each other and expecting something.
You blur the line between sound design and score. Was that something you were conscious of when you were putting it together?
Well, I was working on the sound design and music while I was editing the film. So I was editing a scene and instead of editing another scene, I would try and create some atmosphere with some sounds and put some music. It was the editing, basically. Usually, you edit the movie and then you give the movie to someone else, and that person works for three weeks and then shows you the movie with sound design. I was doing it during the editing, but that's how it happened.
Can you talk about the different "levels" of reality going on in "Rubber?"
I started with the tire idea. And I started to write the story of the tire. And then I realized, after 20 pages, that it was not enough, not just one layer of reality. It was too similar to a slasher movie. It was like replacing Michael Meyers or Jason with a tire. Which is cool, but I wasn't interested. So I needed something different and the tire idea was really stupid. When I was saying something about "Oh, I'm writing a movie about a living tire" everyone was laughing at me! So I decided to put the audience into the movie, to play with this and also make fun of this and criticize myself. And probably that was a good way to have an audience, because when we were shooting the movie, it was not supposed to be released. We filmed it with private financing. We weren't thinking about a release and had no distribution. So shooting the audience was a good way to have the audience. I already felt like my movie was being watched.
Is "Steak" [his previous film which looks from trailers to be a coming-of-age film involving young men transforming themselves via plastic surgery] ever coming out in America?
I think it's out in Canada. The producers of "Steak" just don't care. They just did it for the French market and it was a flop in France. They just don't care. But I think you can find the Canadian DVD with subtitles [get it here].
"Rubber" is currently available on demand and opens in limited release this Friday, April 1st.